Carla Fracci, the iconic Italian étoile, the inspiring muse of Eugenio Montale‘s poem “The tired dancer”, passed away today in Milan. The symbol of La Scala Theatre would have turned 85 in August. Of humble origins, daughter of a tram driver, Carla Fracci managed to conquer an international audience with her gentle lines and grace, performing in the most prestigious theaters in the world, but also on popular occasions, because she wanted her art to be accessible to everyone.

Carla Fracci
Carla Fracci, queen of ballet

“The Theater, the city and dance lost a historical, legendary figure, who left a strong mark on our identity and made a fundamental contribution to the prestige of Italian culture in the world“, wrote La Scala in a press release announcing her death. Until the 1970s, Carla Fracci worked with several foreign companies – such as the London Festival Ballet, Royal Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet and the Royal Swedish Ballet – but after the 1980s she decided to remain loyal to “her” Italy, directing the corps de ballet of the San Carlo Theatre, then of the Verona Arena and, finally, of the Rome Opera Theatre.

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Carla Fracci, Swan Lake (1974)

It all ​started by chance, at the age of ten: when she started taking her first steps in the famous La Scala dance school, at the suggestion of some of her parents’ friends, young Carla Fracci did not imagine she would become the undisputed queen of ballet. “At the beginning I did not understand the meaning of the repeated exercises, of the sacrifice, of the total mental and physical commitment up to the little finger” she said in an interview referring to when choreographer Margot Fonteyn, during a pause, approached her and corrected the position of her little finger.

Her career began with a stroke of luck, one year after graduating from La Scala school. It was December 1955 and “Cinderella” was staged at La Scala, interpreted by the étoile of the Paris Opera, Violette Verdy, who, however, decided to give up some performances. Thus Fracci replaced her in a triumphal debut on December 31. From there, her career never stopped, a continuous rise that saw her perform with great partners – suited to her height – such as Nureyev, Miskovich and Vassiliev.

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Carla Fracci with a future dancer

That same passion and love for dance, which allowed her to travel the world, and the awareness of all the hard work and the sacrifices that a dancer must make in the shadow of the rehearsal room, brought her close to young dancers, the future of ballet, and to teaching, that she loved. In fact, only a few months ago, in January, she held a masterclass with the protagonists of the ballet Giselle, which was streamed on La Scala channels and remains available on Raiplay.